Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
When I look at our society, one of the things I see is our Black brothers and sisters — in themselves — as representatives of struggles within the United States. So many of them have been made to stand at the peripheries in one way or another. What’s it going to take to change things and be sure that the full human dignity of every person is recognized and respected?
The St. Charles Lwanga Center, our archdiocesan Office of Black Catholic Ministries (OBCM), is one of our answers to that question in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
If you talk to Father Art Cavitt, the director of the Lwanga Center/OBCM, he’ll tell you that we can’t be simplistic about the nature of the problem.
Some people want to point only to unjust structures in the white community and say: “Those need to change.” That’s absolutely true. But it’s not the whole truth.
Some people want to point only to the behaviors of individuals in the Black community and say: “Those need to change.” That’s absolutely true as well, and also not the whole truth.
The whole truth is a complex and long-standing interaction of unjust structures and individual behaviors, and neither comes first anymore. They’ve become a self-perpetuating loop.
The bad news is that loop has been building up for generations, and that means there will be no quick or easy solutions. Healing a physical injury to the body always takes longer than getting the injury. The same is true of a psychological and spiritual injury to society, which is what racism is. If we want healing, we have to be committed to the long haul.
The good news is the Lwanga Center/OBCM and its sponsoring parishes have been working since 1978 to disrupt that negative loop at every point of entry, and the Archdiocese of St. Louis is in it for the long haul. Advocacy for structural change? Yep. Teaching? Covered. Spiritual formation and leadership development in the Black Catholic community, especially directed at our youth? That’s been a strength and focus from the early going.
But one key in all this work, according to Father Cavitt, is that it’s never just a handout. It can’t reduce people to passivity. Instead, there’s a way of meeting Christ in people, and helping them to see the Christ-given empowerment in themselves, that allows them to take an active part in making things better.
People can foster an external revolution, and some want to, and that can be quick. But unless there’s a spiritual change, sinful humanity will always bring back the same problems. Those involved in the work of the Lwanga Center/OBCM are committed to a transformation of individuals and structures that’s rooted in Christ. That transformation may take longer. But it builds a more lasting and secure foundation.
I pray that more of us will join them in seeing the problem in its complexity, and helping people find themselves in Christ with the sure hope that when they do, things can be better.
The mission of St. Charles Lwanga Center/Office of Black Catholic Ministries is the promotion of Catholic teaching, Catholic spiritual formation and leadership development, including advocacy for justice and racial equity concerns within the Black Catholic community and all who collaborate with them, in accord with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.
The St. Charles Lwanaga Center annual Testimonial Dinner will be held on April 25.
For more information: